Biden administration to give Haiti nearly $110 million in security aid, Blinken says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration will award nearly $110 million in security and police assistance to Haiti, a U.S. State Department official told Reuters, a move that bypasses a months-long hold on the funds by Republican lawmakers.

The official, speaking on background, said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the decision following more than 100 briefings to Congress by the State Department and that the Biden administration remained committed to working in "close consultation" with that body.

"The security situation in Haiti remains untenable due to violence perpetrated by violent gangs, and the people of Haiti cannot wait," the official said.

The funds include $95 million for security mission support and $15 million to the Haitian National Police to counter gang violence.

"The Biden Administration's choice to override the hold I had placed on U.S. taxpayer funding for the ill-conceived Haiti MSS (Multinational Security Support Mission) is extremely disappointing," Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

Risch and Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in March they had put "holds" on funds to Haiti because they needed "a lot more details" before approving them.

The State Department said at the time it was engaging with Congress to get approval for the funds, seen as essential for the deployment of Kenyan police in the Caribbean nation, where spiraling gang violence has cut off food supplies and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Leaders of the foreign relations committees have approval power over the money, but the administration can override their holds if it decides a situation is extreme enough to warrant going ahead.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Dan Whitcomb; editing by Deepa Babington and Diane Craft)